Personal Injury

Nurses convicted of crimes still in good standing in California

Nurse Haydee Parungano was an independent contractor who traveled Southern California to provide nursing services to Medicare patients. Her records show she worked every day between April 1, 2002, and August 31, 2003, including all weekends and holidays, averaging 20 visits per day.

During this time span, there were 60 days that Parungano claimed to have seen more than 32 patients – a feat that, at 45 minutes per patient, would take more than 24 hours to accomplish.

Last year, Parungano was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison for her role in a health care fraud scheme that ultimately cost Medicare more than $3 million.

Though Parungano sits in prison, she remains a nurse in good standing in the State of California and is able to work in any hospital, medical clinic or nursing home, according to a Los Angeles Times and ProPublica investigation. The investigation found more than 100 recent cases where the state didn’t pull or restrict licenses until nurses had three or more criminal convictions. In some cases, these crimes include sex offenses and attempted murder.

California has the largest number of registered nurses in the nation. Hospitals and clinics turn to the California Board of Registered Nursing Web site to check job applicants for any accusations and disciplinary actions, which are posted on the site for the public to review. However, according to the report, the screening process is flawed.

Beginning in 1990, nurses had to submit fingerprints so that the nursing board would be flagged by law enforcement when a registered nurse was arrested. The 146,000 nurses hired prior to 1990 have not had to submit fingerprints. The board, which requires nurses to apply for licenses every two years, also doesn’t ask nurses to volunteer information about criminal convictions that occurred since the last time they applied.

Meanwhile, Parungano sits in a prison, looking forward to the day when she walks free and, possibly, works as a nurse again.